Category Archives: Trips!

NYE in Sydney, Australia!

I’m super overdue in blogging about all my other trips, but figured I shouldn’t wait too long to talk about New Year’s Eve in Sydney.

It really was spectacular!  Here is a video of the finale – it’s pretty short, so make sure to watch it until the end, because the fireworks get really really good then (if you want to watch it on HD, just click on the video to go to vimeo’s site).

We debated a lot whether we were going to face the crowds to see the fireworks or not.  After all, I was 30 weeks pregnant, and we knew that if we decided to go, it would be at least a 7 hour wait until the fireworks started.  Plus, most places in Sydney CBD were expected to reach capacity at 1pm!  1pm!!!

We had considered going to one of the restaurants with a view, but the prices for their New Year’s Eve parties were $400+  PER PERSON.  Since we’re not rolling in dough, I don’t need to mention how we didn’t consider that even for a second.

It was literally the night before when again while exploring our options and decided to give a go at North Sydney, at the very least, we would get in the train before the crowds from Sydney CBD.  One of my biggest fears was the crowded train on the way back.  From experience from July 4th in DC and past NYE in Singapore or Rio de Janeiro, I know that the stations are overcrowded, to the point you can’t even get into the station until a good hour after the fireworks are over.  We usually just walk to a station further away, and though that takes a good hour or so anyway, at least we’re walking away from crowds, versus being pushed and shoved into a crowded train.  But again, that was not an option at 30 weeks pregnant.

Anyway, we decided to give a go at Blue Point in North Sydney.  If it was too crowded or at capacity, we could turn around, go back to the hotel, say we tried and we’d be ok with that.

We got there and yes, near the water it was super crowded, but at 5pm there were still plenty of spots we could sit at and still have a view of the bridge.

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Look at the crowds!

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But our view wasn’t too bad, and we were against a fence, so no chance of being trampled from behind either!  I put my sarong down so we had a place to sit, brought snacks, bought some water and our kindles and we were good for the wait.  We even started chatting with a couple who sat in front of us who were American diplomats posted in Bangkok (what are the odds?), the Filipina next to us, and later with this group of very cool and chatty Australians who sat to our other side.  Time flew by and I didn’t even look at my kindle!

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We were going to stay for the 9pm fireworks, and play it by ear from there depending on how I was feeling, but once we saw the 9pm show, we decided that if they were that good, the midnight one for SURE was worth sticking around for, so we got to see the whole thing.  (The porta-potty situation was a pain, I’m not going to lie, the lines were ridiculously long, people kept cutting the line – if I’m 30 weeks pregnant and can wait in line, what are their excuse?  And calling them out made no difference, they were rude as hell and refused to move, and even wanted to fight!  WTF! – but once you finally made it to the porta-potty, they were surprisingly clean, had a flush, lights and plenty of toilet paper, so despite my pregnant bladder, it really wasn’t the end of the world having to pee 3 times during the night.)

And as you saw in the video, the fireworks were amazing!

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(Stupid girl photobombing the finale.)

P1080827And remember the crowded trains being my biggest fear?  We got into the station right away, they weren’t even charging for the fare (damn, we should have saved our money instead of pre-paying!), but that meant no line to get in, the first train that came went straight by us to Sydney CBD (nice to know they were sending empty trains to take care of the millions there), and the next train was mostly empty, we got a seat, and were comfortable for the ride back.  Of course, the train did get super crowded later, but being in North Sydney did help us out in that respect.

I know I’m late, but happy 2013!  I promise I’ll blog more about our trip to Sydney (and all my trips to the Marshall Islands, Pohnpei in Micronesia, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Shanghai, climbing Mt Pinatubo here in the Philippines…) soon!

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A taste of the weekend…

More to come later, I’m off to Coron in a few hours!

Mt Pinatubo hike:

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And swimming with dolphins…

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Lots and lots more pictures to be shared later!

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Riding Elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand!

By far, my favorite activity in Asia has been riding elephants in Chiang Mai.  I had one it before with my parents, so back in June when Michelle’s plans to go to Chiang Mai almost fell through, I jumped in as a replacement friend! 

Nothing like having 2 days notice and riding elephants, no?

I tried booking the same spot I went to last time, but they didn’t get back to me until after another place had replied, and being last minute, I had already paid the deposit, so we went with Thai Elephant Home instead.  (If you’re curious which place to choose, I compared them at the bottom of this post.)

Now for the pictures!  That’s the fun part no?

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Thai Elephant Home was considerably more expensive than Ran-Tong Elephant Training Camp, that I used back in January. And months later, I still don’t know which place I would recommend over the other.  There are considerable differences between the two places, but is it worth the extra money?  I’m not sure.

Ran-Tong was definitely more bare bones, more rustic, a much smaller company.  It was also 2 people per elephant vs one person per elephant.  The trail was shorter, and the spot you went to swim in the water with them much smaller, not fitting more than 2 elephants at a time.  At Thai Elephant Home, you spend all day away from camp, but it was a much more grueling hike (for my parents who decided to walk more than ride – they’re old and more afraid of heights, probably because a fall would do more damage to their bones than mine – Ran-Tong was much easier for them to tag along with us). 

At Thai Elephant Home you also took a mud bath with the elephants which was a blast, but to be honest, being covered in wet mud on top of an elephant who was also covered in wet mud, was not a good combo.  I was slipping and sliding, and while on the way there I was having a great time, on the way from the mud to the river (all downhill) I was quite terrified, as I literally almost fell twice (my elephant liked grabbing plants from the side of the path and the jerking of her body, just made me slip a lot).

At the end?  They were BOTH worth it.  I don’t think you can go wrong with either of the places.  And the lunch at both spots was amazing Pad Thai, so you can’t go wrong!

All I hope is that this was not my last time riding elephants. I think 2012 would be a year I’ll always look back to fondly: I rode elephants twice, went diving with sharks and manta rays in Palau, and went to so many new places! The year is not even over and I’m already nostalgic!

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Singapore!

Right after getting back from our R&R trip, I was medevaced to Singapore for my NT scan at 12 weeks.  Since Karl was on a work trip with the embassy, my friend Emi tagged along as it was her first time in Singapore!

My first time there was at NYE last year (and I got some fabulous pictures), but it was a lot of fun to be back, specially in a much quieter time of the year.  We dealt with lots of rain and bad weather (and poor Emi was a trooper dealing with my need to nap once a day), but we still got to walk around and see a lot.

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Carrot cake was one of my favorite meals.  And no, it’s not made of carrots or cake, so no idea why it gets the name, but it’s delicious!

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And even though it wasn’t my first time there, I still find it so relaxing walking along Marina Bay…

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We also did a ton of walking during the day…  Visiting Chinatown, then walking from there back to Marina Bay!

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Even with the gloomy weather we decided to see the view from the Singapore Flyer (I had been there before with Karl, but we had gone at night).

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And our last dinner was at a HUGE Hawker Center with a ton of amazing delicious food (more carrot cake for me!).

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And can you believe this is where you wait around at the Singapore Airport until your gate opens?  Ah, if only NAIA was like that…

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